I spoke yesterday at ANZCA2013 in Fremantle, Australia about some of my latest work coming out of my PhD research on the philosophy Facebook, radical transparency and privacy in the context of a decade of Facebook (as of next year). A full paper is in the works, but here’s where I’m at so far.
The amount and scope of personal information shared on Facebook has markedly increased over the past decade (Stutzman, Gross, & Acquisti, 2013), a privacy shift that has been reflected in internet usage more broadly. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO: “[In 2004] when Facebook was just getting started, most people didn’t want to put information about themselves on the Internet. So, we got people through this really big hurdle of getting people to want to put up their full name, a real picture, mobile phone number…and connections to real people… (Zimmer, 2008). As Zuckerberg’s statement suggests, these changes were not accidental. Facebook has intentionally and consistently pushed users to to increase their personal disclosures, or, as those at Facebook describe it, to become more “open and connected” (Raynes-Goldie, 2012). As their revenue model is based on datamining and targeted advertising, Facebook has a clear financial motivation to encourage its users to share more personal information on the site. However, profit is not the company’s only motivation. Underpinning Facebook’s push towards less privacy is a deep ideological belief that if if we all lived more open, transparent and less private lives, society would be more compassionate, equal and just (Smith, 2007). It is a belief that Zuckerberg and his “inner circle” at Facebook describe as “radical transparency” (Kirkpatrick, 2010, p. 207).
Based on an extensive archival and media analysis of primary and secondary materials gathered over the last decade (including developer changelogs, court documents, official blog posts, interviews, and first hand employee accounts) and this paper will examine how Facebook has attempted to impose radical transparency upon its users, and indeed the internet more broadly. Specifically, this paper will outline how the company, through a variety of mechanisms (technical, discursive, social and policy-based), has strategically transformed Facebook’s culture from a locked down, student-focused community to a much less private, more open social network where nearly a billion people actively share their personal information and daily activities — changes which, due to the global pervasiveness of Facebook, have had a ripple effect on privacy culture more broadly. Overall, this paper will document exactly how and why a decade of Facebook has significantly changed privacy online.
Kirkpatrick, D. (2010). The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Raynes-Goldie, K. (2012). Privacy in the Age of Facebook: discourse, architecture, consequences. PhD. Curtin University, Perth, Australia.
Smith, J. (2007). Facebook Friends Lists let you manage your ‘friends’ more effectively. Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.insidefacebook.com/2007/12/19/facebook-friend-lists-let-you-manage-your-friends-more-effectively/
Stutzman, F., Gross, R., & Acquisti, A. (2013). Silent Listeners: The Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook. Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality, 4(2). Retrieved from http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1098&context=jpc
Zimmer, M. (2008). Facebook’s Zuckerberg on Increasing the Streams of Personal Information Online. Retrieved from http://michaelzimmer.org/2008/11/08/facebooks-zuckerberg-on-increasing-the-streams-of-personal-information-online/